We are dismayed that the current peacemaking effort of the United States has not fully taken into account the doubts and fears of Jordan and the rest of the Arab world, doubts and fears that are based on what we see as a discrepancy between the American interest in "basic" security for the Middle East region as a whole, and the Israeli insistence on "current" security for Israel alone, as well as a discrepancy between both these concepts of security and the Arab perception of peace.
The long-term basic security of the Middle East requries the participation of all people concerned with the Arab-Israeli conflict in a manner that comes honestly to grips with the full dimensions of the disenfranchisement of the Palestinian people. Steps leading to a comprehensive solution to the Palestinian question should also spell out the long-term stability of the Middle East region.
We see the autonomy plan for the West Bank and Gaza Palestinians, currently viewed by some as the only realistic starting point for Mid-east peace, rather as a further catalyst for the kind of regional instability and upheaval that we all fear.
The autonomy plan to us is another manifestation of the self-perceived Israeli requirement to ensure its current security by the control of the land, water and human resources of the occupied West Bank and Gaza. By splitting up these areas into three or four minuscule and semi-autonomous entities based on historical references to Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and Gaza and northern Sinai, Israel is impelled by its security concerns to encircle these proposed Bantustan-like areas with rings of Israeli settlers. These Israeli settlers, housed in 77 settlements, already constitute over 13 percent of the total population of the occupied areas, without even counting the 33 new settlements budgeted for in the current Israeli fiscal year.
The irony is that while Israel has expropriated over 27 percent of the most productive land of the West Bank and Gaza and continues to strengthen its stultifying hold over Arab Jerusalem and its suburbs, it still refers to an ill-defined concept of autonomy under which Israel is to be allowed to continue its settlement activity unhindered.
The settlement and strangulation process will only accelerate the socio-economic devitalization of the region, which, in turn, will only accelerate the exodus from there of waves of embittered and frustrated Palestinians, an exodus that last year alone reached a net 22,000 people. The emigration of these Palestinians across the river into Jordan and then onward into the oil-producing Arab states, to swell the ranks of their brethren throughout the Arab world, embodies the contradiction of an Israel that claims to fear radicalism while in fact creating and exporting it to the Arab world.
The possible fresh movement of tens of thousands of refugees from occupied Palestine into Jordan and the Arab oil states coincides with what appears to us in the Middle East as a determined radical push aimed at the intensification of the global conflict that has reached flashpoint in Africa recently, and has been manifested lately on the fringes of the oil-producing Arabian peninsula, particularly in the Horn of Africa, Yemen and Iran.
Events such as we see in Iran today, many weeks after the revolution there, make us wonder seriously whether Arab public opinion would be able to withstand a similar determined push by organized groups basing their claims on ideological or ethnic grounds. A polarization of the Arab world into global ideological extremes would shake the very fiber of the commitment of the Arab man in the street toward his nation, his concept of pan-Arabism and even the very God he workships. Such a reaction would likely isolate him and increase the feeling that the only identity he has, be he kurdish or Azerbaijani, be he Maronite, Druze, Palestinian, Jordanian, Armenian or Eritrean, is to a lesser entity, a lesser unit and a lesser loyalty-the loyalty of tribalism.
It is possible, then, to envisage the break-up of the region into a mosaic of minorities in weak, ethnocentric entities, among which Israel can consolidate its crusader status as an alien state in a sea of enemies and use its well-honed militarism to practice the age-old dictum of divide and rule. This would be aggravated by a superpower scramble for the material resources of the region, with Israel getting its share on the basis of its emergence as a fifth power that applies its own concepts of security, both current and basic.
We are concerned about the fundamental incompatibility between the hard line of Menachem Begin, whose autonomy plans will only increase the Palestinian exodus and thereby perpetuate Israel's anarchic "contribution" to the stability of the Middle East, and the Arab states' long-term view of their own enduring security requirements.
The Camp David process invited the skepticism of the friends of the United States, not so much over what has been reported, but over what remains to be achieved. It is further aggravated by the irony that, whereas the United States invites the participation of moderate countries in the search for peace, the mechanism of Camp David excludes this participation because of the limitations inherent in it.
Peace cannot be achieved on the basis of one-way traffic determined by an exchange of domestic political favors among Egypt, Israel and the United States, or within the electoral timeframes and the domestic constraints conditioning the countries directly involved in the Camp David process.
We hope that we are not being penalized for stating our case clearly-for rejecting a degrading role offered to us now by Camp David as the policemen for Israel's occupation-as we strive to make our contribution commensurate with the responsibilities expected of us in remaining a consistent and, hence, a moderate element in the center of this volatile region.
Our moderate position reflects our understanding of the international consensus to which we are demonstrably committed through the United Nations resolutions we helped draft, in which peace is envisaged as materializing by a simultaneous and mutual recognition of the Israeli and Palestinian national realities. The Camp David process appears to have moved away from this international consensus, best symbolized by U.N. Security Council Resolutions 242 and 338.
Is it not time for a great debate, for a major debate about peace? Have we ever really had a peace conference, or can we realistically attempt to do so while Begin refers to the West Bank and Jerusalem as God-convenanted?
Is it not time for a process of peace to be preceded by a process of detente, including, say, an end to Israeli settlements, so that the web of complicated issues involving the hopes and aspirations of millions of people can be attended to simultaneously by a widening circle of interested parties?
The United States may be misreading the national interests of states such as Jordan when it assumes we can ensure our own basic security by joining short-term schemes, such as the Palestinian autonomy plan, that are based only on guaranteeing Israel's current security. The camp David approach threatens to accelerate the destabilization process in the Middle East that is a function both of indigenous radicalization trends and global rivalries. We still hope that our friends in the United States would see this as clearly as we do. CAPTION: Picture, No caption